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Up 2, 4 Secs to Go, Their Ball Full Court

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on March 26, 2017

I posted this on our Never Too Late Basketball Facebook Page yesterday and am still thinking about it, wondering if players and/or coaches have any thoughts or comments.
Friday night, March 24, 2017, Madison Square Garden, Round of 16: the scenario was Wisconsin just took a two point lead on two very clutch free throws by a pretty shaky free thrower shooter, senior Nigel Hayes (5/10 up till that point, 59% on the year). Florida calls timeout. Their ball, full court, down 2. What can a coach tell his team who is already into the double bonus to help them stop the offense from scoring. Really the issue is not them scoring, the issue is them winning. First and foremost should be the other team does not get three. After that, we’ll take our chances. No doubt what was said over and over in Wisconsin’s huddle was “do not foul, do not foul”. Problem with telling players do not foul is it stops them from playing defense; they are not used to that. You play defense and if a foul is called a foul is called. Certainly do not foul a three point shooter, yes. In fact, last possession of the first half and first possession of the second half Wisconsin did just that giving up 6 points. Beside de-emphasizing do not foul, a strategy to limit Florida’s strengths in that situation was needed. What can a team do in that four seconds? What do coaches usually do? 1) Throw a 3/4 court pass that gets dumped off quickly for a jumper or 2) get it in the hands of a quick guard and let them go. Wisconsin had shown great difficult in staying in front of Florida’s two small quick guards: KeVaughn Allen (35 points) and Chris Chiozza who was driving to the basket at will, in fact, scoring their last bucket on a drive (after a block off what should have been a dunk for Wisconsin). How to stop a full-steam-ahead dribbler? Well, Gard could have said in the time-out: “if they throw it in to one of their guards in the back court, trap immediately, force them to pass, move your feet, hands up, force the pass taking valuable time off the clock. Desperation heave. Game over. Or play 2-2-1, 3/4 court and trap in the same way. Move your feet, don’t reach, trap and force a pass. The emphasis on not fouling, playing scared is the worse impulse and no doubt cost them the game.

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50 Little (Big) Tips (7th in a 10 Part Series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on November 5, 2015

1. When going left, dribble lefty. When going right, dribble righty. When you don’t know where you are going, don’t dribble at all.

2. You are playing a league game or a game where there’s a ref or somebody who is going to impose rules. It’s your team’s ball, side-out in the front court. Pass the ball to a teammate in the backcourt. (You can throw the ball into the backcourt from anywhere and it is not a backcourt violation. Just don’t touch it till you get both feet in the backcourt!) The pass to the backcourt eliminates the danger of a) catching in the front court near the half court line and stepping on the line and getting a totally demoralizing backcourt violation and b) getting trapped by a defender and the sideline/backcourt corner.

3. The first overnight basketball camp I ever went to was Friendship Farm run by Jack Donahue, the great Lew Alcindor’s (Kareem Abdul Jabbar) high school coach. The camp was heaven on earth; all basketball all-the-time. Great high school players and great high school and college coaches. (Bobby Knight came in on day and nearly killed us with defensive drills.) One day during a break, Warren Isaacs, all-time Iona College great and long-time big-time pro in Italy, pulled me aside to work on my hook shot. At one point, Coach Donahue walked by and muttered, “you’re only as good as your running hook”. Whatever Coach Donahue said, I took as gospel. You should too.

4. When you play a game of one-on-one, vary the rules. Don’t always start at the top of the key, don’t always leave the rules open ended. Some ideas: a) top of the key but one dribble maximum; b) start on one or the other low post areas, back to the basket, and go three dribbles maximum (anything more is grammar school ball); c) start in the corner or the wing; d) play one-on-one full court; e) ball handler starts at 1/2 court with a live dribble, defense starts at the top of the key. What game do you want to play?

5. Unless you are dunking the ball or dropping the ball down into the hoop, use the backboard to finish layups, especially breakaway layups. Angle out on the last step if you are coming down the middle (easy to do) and finish around the rim, not over the rim. Over the rim (meaning straight into the hoop) without using the backboard can result in the ball rolling off the rim and out. So depressing. I cannot tell you home many times I have seen heads hung after the ball rolls off the rim and out on “all alone layups – even in the pros! Take the rim out of the equation. Ball + backboard = 2 points.

Posted in beautiful basketball, defense, fast break, general improvement, notes: college & pro, passing, post play, rebounding, rules, shooting, team offense, without the ball | Leave a Comment »

50 Little (Big) Tips (6th in a 10 Part Series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on September 14, 2015

1. As in any thrown ball, if your hand goes to the outside of the ball, the ball will curve. In basketball, pretty much the only time you throw a “baseball pass” is when you hit a teammate who has gone ahead of all the defense and you are throwing a 70′-90′ pass. If you throw it with your hand rotating around the outside of the ball, it will curve away and not hit your target. Instead – and this is absolutely beautiful, try it! – finish with your thumb down, your hand coming under the ball rather than around the side. This gives it a smooth backspin rotation, just like on your jumper, which we know, always hits it target!

2. When Tom Thibodeau (NBA Coach of the Year, 2010-11) and I coached together for four years at Harvard, we played a ton of pickup games together. During those games, he talked a lot, some of it smack but a lot of it just random basketball stuff. One thing he used to say was “never catch a deflected pass”. You know: someone throws you a pass and a defender deflects it. Don’t know where Thibs picked this up (it sure sounded like he was parroting something he had heard) but it makes sense in that one is likely to misjudge the flight of the ball and it will deflect off you and out of bounds.

3. When Robert Parish got traded to the Celtics in 1980, he was a four year veteran with plenty of skills. Playing with Larry Bird over the next decade, he added many more. Bird used to outlet the ball 3/4 court left-handed. He’d rebound on the right side of the rim, turn over his right shoulder and looking up court, use the hand that was away from the middle (where defense tends to be) and the hand that he could outlet quicker with, his left. Three years later, Robert Parish was outletting lefty too. If an NBA veteran can pick up a skill like that, so can you.

4. When you run the break, you run wide, right? But don’t run wide all the way to the baseline or corner (unless you are spotting up for an NBA style three pointer in the corner, the NBA’s favorite shot). Instead, hesitate when you are wide but even with the top of the key, and then angle in so you come to the hoop above the block. (I got this from Rick Pitino when he was at Providence College many years ago.) This angle allows you to A) catch and use your body to protect and finish on a layup; B) gives you the angle where you can use the backboard (rather than on a baseline drive where it’s just rim) and C) hit a teammate with a bounce pass angling in from the opposite wing. (Defense is between you and the hoop thus giving you a window to make the pass through the lane; couldn’t do that if you were coming in from the corner!) Again: angle in above the block, please. You will never regret it.

5. Similar to the efficiency of the lefthand outlet, after rebounding and deciding you are going to dribble the ball up rather than outletting with a pass (a la Magic Johnson), take the first dribble with the inside hand, the hand that will allow you to stretch the ball up court quickest. On the right side of the court, that would mean your left hand. On the left side, your right hand. If you are not outletting, you better get moving and using a long inside hand dribble is the best way to start your speed dribble up court!

Posted in ballhandling, beautiful basketball, defense, fast break, general improvement, notes: college & pro, passing, rebounding, shooting | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

50 Little (Big) Tips (5th in a 10 Part Series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on July 22, 2015

IMG_24331. After feeding the post yell “double”. This is fundamental, as fundamental as the “Mikan Drill”. Why yell double? The player guarding you invariably goes to bother the receiving post player. One of the first (fundamental) things the post player does is turn and look middle. The post player cannot look middle AND see your player who has vacated you to double down. Help out your teammate in the post by yelling “double”!

2. Let the post player get position before you feed the post. Not doing so more often than not results in a deflection (almost as bad as a steal). Posting up means, posting up by definition is, getting the defense on your back so you can manipulate and hold off defense so that the post player can receive the ball cleanly. It’s offense: be patient!

3. Make your left as good as your right, practice lefty (or off-hand) jumpers to better understand form. Of course we don’t mean become an ambidextrous jump shooter; gauche. But there is a reason that all great shooters are, informally, like during games of H-O-R-S-E or just in goofing around, very good off-hand jump shooters. They understand form so well that they can apply it both to their off-hand and to their strong hand. (My record in shooting 18′ jumpers alternating left hand and right hand every shot is 20 in a row. What’s yours? Try it! And then try it again and again; you’ll figure it out and become a better shooter overall.)

4. Shoot for swishes (“Swish Game”). Fred Hodson of Jonesboro, IN, NTL’s famed Shot Surgeon at our Weekend Camps (he slices open, takes apart and slowly stitches back together your shot – no pain killers) says “shrink your target”. In other words, don’t just shoot to get the ball in the hoop; shoot it to get it in a particular part of the hoop. There’s a game, comes by many names that is helpful. The “Swish Game” goes like this (it can be done from anywhere): you take two from the FT line. If you miss, it’s minus one; if you make a perfect swish (no rim at all), you get plus one; if you make but hit the rim, you get zero for that shot. Then your partner (opponent) does the same, takes two. Play to plus six or to any number you want. Making shots will all of a sudden become a by-product of shooting.

5. Aim for the bottom corner of the backboard when feeding a post player who is being fronted. I got this from Tom Thibodeau when we were coaching together at Harvard and we’d play pick up or summer league games. I’d have it on the wing; he’d be posting up. I would situate myself so that Thibs would be between me and the hoop. If he was fronted, he’d keep the defender there and tell me to throw the ball up to the corner of the backboard. This would keep the ball out of the middle of the lane where hep might be coming but also allow him (the post player) to pull it in, get footwork down and score in the lane.

Posted in beautiful basketball, general improvement, notes: college & pro, post play, shooting, without the ball | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

50 Little (Big) Tips (3rd in a 10 part series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on March 12, 2015

Week Three

1. Practice like a pro (http://video.sfgate.com/Stephen-Curry-and-the-Art-of-Dribbling-28411894)

2. Practice “toes to the corner” – shoulder pointing in toward the hoop to protect the ball – finishes (or as I used to hear Rick Pitino say, “put ’em in jail!”)

3. Engage in games, competition: H-O-R-S-E, Streak, Knockout, especially One-on-One (competition is good for basketball development)

4. Play “chest up, high hand” defense (heard Bo Ryan, U of Wisconsin head coach, say this recently)

5. Always run wide on the break (I remember watching Karl Malone run so wide on the break when John Stockton was pushing it up that it looked like Malone was out of bounds or going to run on top of the scorers’ table.)

Posted in ballhandling, beautiful basketball, defense, fast break, general improvement, notes: college & pro, post play, shooting | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

50 Little (Big) Tips (2nd in a 10 part series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on February 25, 2015

Week Two

First Tip: Layups 12 Different Ways

In games, layups present themselves in a variety of ways; it’s not always the classic “right knee up on a righty layup”, “lefty knee up on a lefty layup”. Here are 12 ways to shoot a layup:

1) right knee up righty layup (the classic);

2) left knee up on a lefty layup (the opposite hand classic);

3) right hand, “wrong foot”

4) left hand, “wrong foot”

5) “Power Layup”; off two feet (right side)

6) “Power Layup”; off two feet (left side)

7) lefty dribble, righty layup

8) righty dribble, lefty layup

9) righty finish left side of hoop (back turned to the middle)

10) lefty finish right side of hoop (back turned to the middle)

11) EuroStep right side

12) EuroStep left side

Second Tip: Alternating Hands Dribble when speed dribbling

When needing to cover a long distance, maybe after a steal or long rebound, and you have no one ahead of you and you want to finish the trip and the play as fast as possible, use the alternating hands dribble technique. Don’t cross the ball over, extend your arm and put the ball down in front of the other hand. 3-4 dribbles and you should be able to cover a full high school (84′) or NBA/NCAA (94′) court.

Third Tip: Sikma Move

Named after NBA legend, Jack Sikma. Also known as “inside pivot”.

Fourth Tip: Use defensive fakes

Especially important when defending a 2-on-1 or 3-on-1 fast break or when helping against penetration on defense and you want to make the dribbler pick up his/her dribble without fully committing to the dribbler.

Fifth Tip: Screening the low side of a defender in a ball screen

Many defensive players, especially in pick-up games or recreational league games react to a ball screen by trying to go under the screen. If so, screen on the low side of that defender so it is even harder for that defender to get under the screen. This will drop the defender so far under that the ball handler who you are screening for will be free for a wide open, undefended shot.

Posted in ballhandling, beautiful basketball, defense, fast break, general improvement, notes: college & pro, passing, post play, shooting, without the ball | Leave a Comment »

50 Little (Big) Tips (1st of 10 part series)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on February 23, 2015

In our Boston NTL Weekly Practice Programs, we are running a clinic during the winter term called “50 Little (Big) Tips & Scrimmage”. The idea is to present 5 “tips’ each week for the ten week duration that don’t usually get talked about, tips that heeded and added up can make you a much better basketball player. We introduce and demonstrate and practice them and look long and hard for players to implement them during the practice-ending scrimmage.

Week One

1. Weakside offensive rebounding on shots taken from the corner:

Missed shots taken from the corner go long 2/3rds of the time. Since defense positions themselves between the ball and you, pin them underneath the basket and take those 2/3rds of the time misses as they go long.

2. Whenever you have the ball and you see the back of a defender’s head, pass to the person that is being face guarded. It’s 2 points and an assist for you.

3. “Fake a pass to make a pass.” Can’t get the ball to where you want to pass it? Fake a pass to get the defense to step off and then make the pass where you originally intended.

4. Offensive rebound by predicting where the rebound is going by watching the flight of the ball and then move to that spot. (Where the ball hits on the rim will determine where the ball will go. Practice it. Get good at it. Go get the ball like Dennis Rodman. “The ability to read the ball in flight and predict where it is going.”)

5. Attack the defender’s top foot. Defender’s right foot is up? Attack it by going to your left. Defender’s left foot up? Attack it by going to your right. Having that foot up makes the defender crossover step, a slower move, and a move that puts them a step behind you.

Posted in beautiful basketball, defense, general improvement, notes: college & pro, passing, rebounding, shooting, without the ball | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Open Letter to the Boston Celtics Management

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on December 14, 2014

Please get rid of the Celtic Dancers

I am a longtime season ticket holder, veteran basketball coach, fan, husband, and father. With the eye of an instructor to (mostly) adult players, and from our seats directly behind the visitors’ bench, I watch the opposing coach(es) and study the moves of the players on the floor. Game in and game out, there is on display the intelligence and athleticism and dedication of the players, the hard work of the coaching staffs. I’m a former longtime college coach who was dedicated to that game, meaning the college game, but, really, the best basketball in the world is in the NBA. Brad Stevens has the Celtics playing hard. They are bought in. The games are close and competitive. It’s great to watch the games.

Still, there is something missing for me. It’s simple and sad: I wish I could bring my daughter who loves basketball to the games. But I can’t. I just don’t know how I can bring an impressionable five-year-old girl to the games when the Celtics (and all NBA teams) demean women and negatively impact girls of all ages by insisting on including in the program barely clad, pelvic-thrusting, butt spanking, hair-flying, out-of-rhythm undulating, on the floor writhing, porn-straddling, quote-unquote dancers. It is ridiculous and embarrassing and completely unoriginal. Honestly, how am I, or any father or mother, supposed to sit there with my daughter, our daughters (and sons) and watch that? What message is my daughter going to take from it?

She loves to watch players dribble, shoot, pass, steal the ball. She can dribble already with either hand and doesn’t look at the ball. She’s proud of this. Yet I can’t take her to these games to see the best practitioners of this skill in person.

Imagine I am at TD Bank Garden. Celtics are playing, say, the Cleveland Cavaliers. You know: LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving. Crazy talent. Awesome basketball game. Interesting on about 40 different levels. Dazzling to a child. And then the Celtics Dancers come on. My daughter, my sweet impressionable kindergartner who, in addition to playing ball, likes to dress-up as a princess every now and then, is staring at the women, grownup girls, who are on the floor, literally on the floor, half butt-naked, in front of a sold-out crowd. I wanted to bring my daughter to see the best basketball in the world and I am sitting there feeling like I will have to answer to the Department of Social Services. It’s porn.

It’s not that a five-year-old wouldn’t be drawn in to the flash and noise of the “family entertainment” on full display. My question is how do I explain the Celtics Dancers? That men like that? That women like to act like that so men will like them? In public? In front of 18,624 people?

There are so many other halftime entertainment options: kids’ drum corps, musicians, skilled athletes from other endeavors, acrobats, leprechauns, and real dancers from all our neighborhoods and all walks of life. Why can’t you choose these? There are enough other awful things to explain about life: war and death and meanness of all kinds. Why must you add another?

What does this display have to do with basketball? Better question: What does this have to do with the attitude of men toward women?

Oh look, here is the answer made evident by watching: Women are objects, pieces of meat, and what’s wrong with slapping around or knocking out a piece of meat every now and then? Right, Ray Rice? What do you say, Jason Kidd? Connect the dots, Celtics ownership.

Another question: Do the Celtics have such little faith in the product they put on the floor during games that they feel they must peddle porn during time-outs? The tepid applause after the dancers leave the floor ought to be instructive.

In February 2004, Red Auerbach said, “They’re just waiting for me to die so they can get cheerleaders”. He was so right (though cheerleaders would be an improvement on what you have now). You waited until Red was dead. And the dancers writhe all along the spot on the floor where it says Red Auerbach. Nice.

So finally, what should I say to my daughter when she stares out on the court and sees a bunch of young women who are there to peddle the sexual aspect of their bodies, and nothing more? That’s life? That’s what important, smart, rich men think you and the world need? If the Celtics ownership had any vision or wisdom or heart or, frankly, balls, they’d step up and be the first to get rid of the dancers; have it be about basketball and teamwork and hard work and fun rooting for the home team for everyone, little girls and boys and their dads and moms included.

Posted in notes: college & pro | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Rajon Rondo’s 3 FTs versus Phoenix (Nov 17, 2014)

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on November 18, 2014

After a Knicks playoff game years ago, I was talking on the phone with Tom Thibodeau who was then an assistant with the Knicks. I said to him, Chris Dudley (who we both coached against when we were at Harvard and Dudley was an All-Ivy center at Yale) who is among the all-time worst FT shooter in NBA history, looks like he is on the deck of a ship lost at sea in rough waters, his balance iss so incredibly bad when he shoots a free throw. (How bad was he? Read this account of one trip to the line.) I said to Thibs: “Can’t someone just get him to stand still? To get his feet under him and leave them there? Does he have vertigo? I get dizzy watching him. It would have to be worth 10-20% at least”. Thibodeau said, “he’s got his own guy [meaning his own private shooting coach] and he won’t listen to anyone”. That coach was stealing money.

I neither love nor hate Rajon Rondo and his game. His court vision when he has the ball and his sense of anticipation and timing on defense are second to none. And that’s in a league of the world’s best athletes. But, man, is he a lousy shooter. All that stuff about him working with Mark Price a few summers ago – changing his shooting form and gaining confidence – is all just a bunch of junk. Price knows what he’s doing, but Rondo ain’t listening. Last night against the Phoenix Suns, Rondo (Rondo!) got fouled shooting a 3 pointer with 2.2 secs left, Celtics down 4. (Very stupid foul). The scenario is clear: make the first 2, miss the next, get the rebound and either score to tie or hit a 3 pointer to win. Except Rondo misses the first. Badly. Then Rondo misses the 2nd. Badly. Then Rondo misses the 3rd on purpose. The funny and sad and where-is-Mark-Price-now thing is the 3rd shot, the intentional miss, came closest to going in.

Rondo needs to change his release point, at least on his free throw. Get it up and out and away from his head and shoulder. Short stroke. Super short stroke to eliminate motion. Mimic Avery Bradley’s release point.

Hey, Rajon. I’m available.

Posted in notes: college & pro, shooting | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

A Conversation with Mark Jackson

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on June 2, 2014

(I rec’d this in an email the day after the Spurs put away the Thunder.)

After last night’s thrilling OT victory by the Spurs (an NTL team if ever there was), I called my good friend Mark Jackson to get his “take” on it.

“John,” he said, “Before the game, I told everybody who would listen and the rest of y’all that if the Spurs were going to beat OKC and advance to the finals, Tim Duncan was going to have to play Tim Duncan basketball. And guess what happened? The game was almost lost and then in OT Tim Duncan started to play Tim Duncan basketball (just like I drew it up) and they won.”

“So, John, do you know why the Spurs won?”

“Because Tim Duncan played Tim Duncan basketball?”

“Right! Anything else?”

“They got it done on both ends of the court?”

“Right!”

Then, I called up legendary NTL coach, Coach B., and asked him what he thought of the game.

“Timmy came to one of our first NTL camps. He was kind of a diamond in the rough. Almost useless in the post. On the first day of camp, I explained to the campers that the ‘great one’s use the glass’. Well, that must’ve stuck with Timmy because on championship Sunday he banked in a couple to help lead his team to victory. I don’t remember much else except he got top ranks for coachability. He was also the first and last to receive an award named after himself.

“Not everyone who goes to NTL camp can expect a hall-of-fame career in the NBA. It’s nice when it happens though.”

John Poplett, shoo-in for NTL Weekend Camp Hall of Fame, Chicago (laced ’em up at NTL Lakeside many an April)

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